10 Mar Danbury Worries About Cuts for School Health CentersMarch 10, 2010
By: Eileen FitzGeraldSource: The News-Times
Mar. 9–DANBURY — The governor’s proposal to trim $1 million from the state’s 75 school-based health centers to help cut the budget deficient means about $13,300 less for each of Danbury’s three centers.
The proposed cut comes on the heels of other cuts to the centers that provide primary medical, dental and mental health services to more than 3,600 Danbury middle and high school students.
The proposal worries Melanie Bonjour, who coordinates the Danbury High, Broadview and Rogers Park middle schools health centers for Danbury’s Department of Health and Housing.
If she has to cut staff hours, it will reduce student access and endanger her ability to keep staff.
"This cut could have serious implications. It could reduce health services for students prior to the end of the school year, and they’ll not have services again until the fall," Bonjour said. "A lot of kids have no access to health care other than the emergency room at Danbury Hospital, and it’s very costly using those services."
The appropriations committee of the General Assembly is scheduled to hold a public hearing Thursday at 3 p.m. in Hartford about Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s deficit mitigation plan.
In the 2008 American Community Survey, the U.S. Census Bureau found that 9 percent of all Connecticut residents, about 310,600, had no health insurance and 4.9 percent of children under 18, about 39,578, were uninsured. In Danbury, the estimate of uninsured children was 13.4 percent.
Bonjour said besides the $1 million dollar proposed cut, the governor also proposed to further reduce the school-based health center budgets next year by $1.23 million.
At this point, the centers can only bill the state Medicaid program for children covered by the HUSKY program, not for uninsured patients. The centers cannot bill private insurance.
"We are in a recession. The city and state have higher rates of underinsured, and she’s targeting school-based health centers," Bonjour said. "It’s catching everyone by surprise."
The city’s three school-based health center sites received $472,270 from the state Department of Public Health this year, Bonjour said, about $23,000 less that last year. The money is used primarily for staff salaries.
Danbury Superintendent Sal Pascarella said the centers are important for keeping students healthy and in school, and the cuts are another example of the state sending its money woes back to the towns to shoulder.
"They can fill the potholes on Route 84," Pascarella said, "but we can’t take the temperatures of our kids."
State Rep. Janice Geigler, who helped the city secure funds for some of its centers, also is concerned about the proposed cuts.
She’d like to see centers in the elementary grades as well as the middle and high schools, because they are invaluable.
Contact Eileen FitzGerald